Gut healing yoga is about more than boosting digestive juices and finding the perfect golden serpent in your toilet bowl. Yes, this is all very important to gut health and we certainly can assist the physiological health of our digestive tracts in our yoga practice, yet there is more to the “gut” than mucus membranes and villi. In fact, the gut, contains plenty of neurones – aka brain cells – and is directly linked to the brain via the gut-brain axis. Check out this video for a deeper explanation.
Yet, even beyond the obvious “brain” power that the gut beholds, there is the subtle intelligence that has been sidelined as civilisation’s “progression” is increasingly mind-focused. Intuition, and “feelings” in general have been poo-pooed (no pun intended) as inferior means of comprehension and navigation. Often described as primitive, effeminate, and irrational, the pre-verbal instincts of the human being have been left in the dark ages, and the age of information and authoritative knowledge has reconfigured the modern meaning of “enlightenment”.
However, the gut is once more becoming recognised as the “second brain” due to the growing awareness of gut-brain axis physical and psychological health issues. We all use phrases such as: “gut feelings”, “butterflies in the stomach”, and “I feel it in me waters” to name just a few belly based idioms. This is because we do feel our living reality, especially those of us with sensitive bellies. This bizarre lockdown situation could be an opportunity to explore your inner world as you find yourself unable to explore the outer.
So what are gut feelings and why do they matter?
Instinctive physiological reactions to external stimuli are embodied as emotions before the mind “describes” what is happening. We are not simply a mind full of thoughts that decide everything we do, but a natural organism constantly in flux within changing environments. However, in a mind-led world we can easily ignore our instincts and instead, choose our next move based on thoughts stored up in mental memory banks.
These memories are remnants of our past experiences and future worries often based on how to survive as a functional social citizen rather than as a healthy and content organism. Instead of listening to our true appetites, urges and energy levels, we are guided by decision anxiety, obligations, deadlines, alarms, FOMO, and even addictions. Amidst this, we constantly try to work out who we are, what our status is, and whether we have done enough, the “right” thing or fulfilled what is expected of us from society.
Why should we refocus?
Even science now knows that the truth about matter does not always lie in what the mortal eye can see. As the popularity of yoga, meditation, and other practices akin to liberating from the conditioned mind increases, we can see that it is starting to become apparent that we need to make space from these thoughts and realise that the truth is underneath them. It is not even just about protecting your mental health from overexertion but also about healing the body, or at least allowing it be in a healing state rather than a threatened one.
By listening to the unspoken messages from your gut, heart and other innards you can take a course of action that uses your energies wisely and efficiently, even if it means forgoing what was previously considered as “intelligence”. Not such an irrational load of women’s nonsense after all eh?
“Where the focus goes, energy flows”
When you next have decision anxiety about which online yoga class to do next, or whether to work on your spreadsheet into the night, or who you haven’t phoned in a while, just stop, take 10 deep breaths into the belly, and ask it what would be the wisest choice for now. The best decision will come from there, not from the mind.
It sounds easier said than done but now some of us will have a little less structure and less train/bus times to manage our days, appetites, toilet trips, and energy around. Now we can tune in and listen to what time feels right for us to eat, sleep, poo, pee, stretch, dance, work, create or whatever. With a moment to slow down and tune in, without trying to reason or rationalise, you might realise that you could just do with having some lunch right now, calling a funny friend or having a lie in the sunshine, or maybe you can just power through that essay or really thrive on cleaning the bathroom listening to Queen right now. Sometimes all it takes is to cool down the head, free it of the intensity of thought, to find productive creativity flowing through the unblocked and relaxed channels.
Perhaps this period of limits and lockdown laws can be used as a form of freedom in disguise.
As a species, we must adapt to survive as much as natural organisms as well as a society. Look after your own personal planet and this will help the wider world. This way, you will harness your body’s true energy ready to re-sync with the outside world as productively as possible. When the time comes to emerge you will be back in control!
Through yoga we can focus energy into the gut and leave the mind to get some well deserved rest, and take a moment to feel rather than think. This is why the first week of the Yoga for Gut Health & Healing course is called “gut feelings” – it is essential that we start from a place of intuition in order to heal our body-mind-soul connection.
More info about the course and my offerings can be found at http://www.spacetoflo.com